Westbrook gets ejected tonight when the Thunder are down 16 with 6:41 left in the third quarter. Nightmare scenario for this team. No Cameron Payne, no Victor Oladipo and Russ gets tossed for arguing with a referee.
Russ picked up back-to-back techs after arguing with a ref about the shot clock resetting, which allowed Memphis to get an extra possession. He played 23 minutes tonight and didn’t record a single assist. He finished the night with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 6 turnovers on 6-of-19 from the field. The Grizzlies imposed their grit ‘n’ grind style of play the entire game which prevented OKC from playing with any consistency on the offensive end.
Russ kept the Thunder in this game for almost two full quarters, this was a one-possession game with 4:43 in the second quarter. Memphis played really solid on both ends of the court to end the second quarter and that’s when this game slipped away from OKC. Russ couldn’t beat the Grizzlies by himself on offense and the Grizzlies collectively kept him from getting his teammates involved. OKC ended the second quarter by missing their final 14 field goals and they didn’t score a single field goal in the final 6:53 of the second quarter.
Enes had the greenest of green lights when Russ was ejected. He suddenly became the first, second and third option on offense. Everything ran through Enes in the post. In a certain light, this was an interesting “what-if” scenario. So, what if Enes Kanter was the Thunder’s primary scorer? Well I guess the simple answer is that you’re probably gonna lose most games. That’s not completely fair to Enes because he was thrown in this role tonight on the road while the team was down 16. He actually handled that pressure really well and scored quite a few times on one of the best centers in the league in Marc Gasol. So that’s something.
The fancy footwork from Enes wasn’t enough to make this a close game in the third, though. The Thunder started looking a lot like the Brooklyn Nets. Kanter finished the night with 19 points and 5 rebounds. Despite losing badly tonight, this game does show some of the necessity of Enes on this team. With a lot of one-sided players, Enes is at least a reliable option on offense. His value to this team is probably higher than his value in the trade market and this team has some decisions to make before the trade deadline. The Thunder drop to 20-13 on the season.
- The Grizzlies had five players that scored in double-digits. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolpoh and Troy Daniels all scored over 20 points. This team has an established identity and team culture, and that’s part of what makes them so effective. Mike Conley is either their first or second best player (definitely debatable) and he sat out tonight. That didn’t matter at all for this team. Aaron Harrison, JaMychal Green and Troy Daniels were excellent tonight in part because of the system in Memphis.
- The Thunder shot 38 free throws tonight. Without those free throws, the Thunder might’ve lost by 50 or possibly more. Woof.
- Tony Allen was a +31 tonight. He’s such a pest on defense, but he’s effective. Gotta give him credit where it’s due.
- I can’t emphasize enough how much I’m looking forward to this team being back at 100%; it’s long overdue.
- 10 out of 11 Memphis players recorded an assist tonight. Only 3 Thunder players got an assist. Memphis was +15 in the assist category.
- What happened to Chandler Parson?! 2 points? Maybe Mark Cuban was right in not re-signing him. The Mavs would be so bad if they still had Parsons.
- If you can’t handle Westbrook at his Worstbrook, then you don’t deserve him at his Bestbrook. Just wanted to put that out there.
Next Up: Against the Clippers at home on New Year’s Eve at 7:00 pm CST.